Inspired by a dish featured in Season 2 of Somebody Feed Phil, pork chops are fried then cooked in vinegar. My version has soy sauce, vinegar and rice wine.
If you’re into Somebody Feed Phil, Netflix released Season 2 a few days ago. Speedy and I have watched the first three episodes and, as we did, I noted down every dish that looked interesting with the intention of making my home version.
The first dish on the list is from Episode 1. Venice and Modena. Phil Rosenthal visited Trattoria Vini Da Arturo which he described as “legendary with Hollywood types like Barbra Streisand and Tom Hanks.” Rosenthal had been there before and his reason for going back were the pork chops — pounded, floured, deep fried then cooked in white vinegar.
While it may sound strange to some people, Rosenthal heaped praises on the dish. I could understand. There is a Japanese dish cooked similarly. Chicken nanban is a dish of chicken fillets coated with starch, fried then soaked in a sauce made with rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce and, optionally, sugar.
I told Speedy, who was munching on chocolate-coated almonds beside me on the couch, that I was going to cook pork chops a la Da Arturo. And I did. Except that, instead of plain white vinegar, I cooked the crispy-fried pork chops in the same mixture used for chicken nanban. And the result was just magical.
For the Asian-style pork chops, I used boneless butterflied chops. I split each one into two equal portions. I dried them on both sides with paper towels to remove as much moisture as I could. If you haven’t heard it yet, moisture in meat is an enemy of frying.
After pressing kitchen towels on the chops, I sprinkled both sides with salt and pepper. Well, we use homemade salt blends (Alex sells them) and the one I used has lemon zest, among other things. Oh, the aroma! But you may just use plain salt and pepper.
The lightly seasoned pork chops were tossed in corn starch then I started heating up cooking oil in a frying pan.
I fried the pork chops in two batches, about two minutes per side, until the surface of the chops were golden and crisp.
When the chops were done, I poured off the cooking oil. The sauce was poured in and allowed to boil for a minute.
Then, I cooked the pork chops in the sauce. About half a minute per side. Just long enough for the sauce to coat the surface and allow the starch to soak up the flavors of the sauce.
Oh, the pork chops were lovely. For some (scientific) reason that I cannot properly explain, the golden coating retained its crispness despite cooking the pork chops in sauce after frying. It’s the same thing with chicken nanban. Unexplained wizardry.
Pork Chops, Asian Style
- 4 large pork chops (about 800 grams total if boneless, 1 kilogram if bone-in)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup corn starch
- cooking oil for frying
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
If your pork chops are on the thick side, you may pound them to make them thinner. If using butterflied pork chops, you may split them into halves.
Press both sides of the pork chops with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Sprinkle the pork chops on both sides lightly with salt and pepper.
Toss the pork chops in corn starch.
In a wide frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least an inch.
Fry the pork chops in hot oil (in batches if your frying pan cannot accommodate all of them at once), about two minutes per side (a minute longer if rather thick) until the surface turns golden and crisp.
Scoop out the fried pork chops and move to a rack.
Pour off the cooking oil.
Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and pour into the pan. Boil for about a minute.
Drop the fried pork chops into the boiling sauce making sure they do not overlap. Cook for half a minute then flip over to cook the other side for another half a minute. Do this in batches so that every inch of the pork chops get soaked in the sauce.
Serve the Asian-style pork chops over rice topped with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds. You may optionally serve the excess sauce on the side for dipping.